Practical (un)cancellability

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cancellability is an essential feature of implicatures. However, its reliability has been challenged by several cases and examples in which conversational implicatures seem to be hard or even impossible to cancel. Should it then be concluded that not all implicatures are cancellable, and therefore Grice's cancellability test should be weakened or abandoned? The present paper addresses this problem by drawing a distinction between theoretical and practical cancellability, where the latter concept captures the (un)reasonableness of explicit or contextual cancellation. By analyzing three legal cases of misleading advertising, I show how the indefensibility of an interpretation can account for the practical uncancellability of an implicature. To explain and account for the reasonableness of an interpretation, the presumptive inferences involved must be reconstructed and evaluated considering different dimensions, such as the conversational context and the associated presumptions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-95
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023


  • Cancellability
  • Defeasible reasoning
  • Implicatures
  • Legal interpretation
  • Pragmatics


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